Planning

 

I arrived in Liberia on June 14th excited to get started with my research but not exactly knowing what to expect. Beyond knowing what I wanted to research and which students I would studying, I did not have a solid action plan, partly because I was not sure what the environment in which I was working would allow. I decided that my first step of action needed to be to acclimate to Monrovian life and become familiar with the culture before I could determine how to execute my research. I spent the first few days in Monrovia exploring the city and getting to know the students, faculty, and structure of MFA. Spending time with MFA’s teachers and founders allowed me to grasp the expectations of students in Monrovia as well as the barriers they face. With this knowledge, I was able to create a plan of action. First, I had to get IRB approval from the University of Liberia, which entailed writing up in detail my plans. This allowed me to receive Liberian input on my research as well as to really flesh out my plan.

 

My partners (with whom I carried out this research) and I decided to give a series of tests and surveys to the students at MFA, the students who applied to MFA but just missed admission (the Just Missed the Cut group, or JMC), and students from B. W. Harris Episcopal School, a highly respected school in Monrovia. Among the tests and surveys that we hired research assistants from The Khana Group to administer were questions about gender, such as do you think girls are as smart as boys and do you think girls can play football as well as boys. I hoped that these questions would reveal the opinions about gender held by students at MFA in comparison to the two control groups (the JMC group and the B. W. Harris group).

 

The next step was to contact the students I was hoping to survey to inform them of the event and gain parental permission. I did this with my partners from William and Mary as well as volunteers from SMART Liberia, an NGO that works to empower Liberian youth through education. We contacted administrators from B. W. Harris to gain class lists from their 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades so that we could randomize which students we would invite. We called the phone numbers of the parents of students in the JMC group, and we distributed information and permission slips at an MFA event with parents in attendance in order to invite the MFA students. Then, all that was left to do was to conduct the research!

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